The future of mobility: Why EV brands need to have the loudest voice

by | Sep 13, 2021 | Public Relations

Over the last month, the EV sector has taken blows from all angles. Consumers have range anxiety and are concerned about the scarcity of charging infrastructure, media publications have focused on lithium battery concerns and issues with battery degradation, and Allegra Stratton, UK spokesperson for the COP26 summit has shunned EVs as being unsuitable for long journeys.

Mrs. Stratton’s comments have received criticism from experts who accuse her of stereotyping and have reminded her that as the face of COP26 she should be advocating change. Instead, due to Mrs. Stratton’s influence, negative comments like this can slow EV adoption.

There are now more EV charging points than there are petrol stations, and the recent IPCC report has made it clear that we need to reduce emissions as efficiently and as quickly as possible. Why then are EVs subject to criticism and with whom does responsibility lie to sway opinion?

The responsibility lies with the EV sector to educate the public on industry innovations and what is being done to address the challenges facing the sector. This will help dispel outdated negative connotations and lead to the greater adoption of EVs throughout the UK.

Here are some important tips for EV brands looking to encourage adoption:

1. Be proactive—make noise and be transparent

Consumers and the media want communication from EV specialists to be candid and transparent. It is in the industry’s interest, and indeed, it is part of your role, to provide the facts which will help reduce concerns about contentious issues surrounding EVs that feature too regularly in public discourse.

To change the narrative, you must be loud. Let people know that many EVs can travel over 300 miles on a single charge. Let people know that the average journey in the UK is only 8.4 miles. Direct people to recently published data on growth statistics of public EV charging networks. Share what positive data you have. Spread information. Educate. But remember, know your audience. Empathize with concerns and communicate effectively, remembering that the average vehicle owner doesn’t share your expertise.

Despite being the second largest EV market in Europe, there is still a long way to go in the UK. We need to win over motorists and educate the public about industry innovations which break down barriers to entry.

2. Be reactive—communicate quickly and clearly

Don’t be afraid to be reactive. Tackling the spread of misinformation and reacting swiftly to negative publications can help to dampen their influence on consumers.

Many Governments, including our own, back EV adoption. However, sometimes the messaging is mixed. For instance, Allegra Stratton in the UK recently denounced EVs’ capacity to travel long distances. Instead, she opts for diesel when visiting family in Scotland.

Comments like this can have adverse effects on consumer perceptions. Adrian Keen, CEO of rapid charging infrastructure—Instavolt—responded by stating that Mrs. Stratton is enforcing outdated negative perceptions of EVs. He added that as a spokesperson for COP26, putting comments like this in the public domain is a step in the wrong direction for the UK’s journey to net-zero.

Commentators have said that there is a need for clear messaging to help to change misinformed opinions regarding EVs. This should be a priority. Clear, efficient, and bold messaging from industry experts will cut through misrepresentations, help affect change, and help hold Government spokespeople to account.

3. Engage with policymakers

Despite the indisputable urgency to speed up the adoption of EVs, public decision makers still introduce policies or regulations which have the opposite effect. If this happens, be sure to fight your corner. Engaging with policymakers and lobbying government can help to steer the ship in the right direction.

A recent example is the Government’s clarification that a provision which reduced VAT to five per cent for “small quantities of electricity” did not extend to cover EV charging infrastructure. According to the HMRC, the provision would only apply to EV chargers if an electricity supply is feeding a building on an “ongoing” basis and amounts to less than 1000 kilowatt hours a month.

This represents a missed opportunity to incentivize petrol and diesel owners to buy an EV as the tax reductions do not apply to public EV charging points. The Government should have used this opportunity to incentivize, rather than discourage, EV adoption.

The sector would benefit from a vocal response to counterproductive policies like this, pushing out thought leadership to key media titles and social channels and engaging directly with policymakers where possible. By communicating and generating media coverage, issues are bought to the publics’ attention. Public pressure can be a powerful tool for implementing change.

The appetite for carbon neutral lifestyles is growing. However, there remains plenty of work to do to bring prospective EV owners up to speed with industry developments. One of the best ways of doing this is to engage with PR and media companies to boost brand and sector awareness.

It is the EV sectors’ responsibility to make sure they have the loudest voice when EV-related issues spring into public discourse. Doing so will increase the rate of adoption and increase the first mover advantages which are so important within the industry. The road ahead to net-zero presents many challenges, let’s make sure we navigate it in an EV, it will help the UK get there faster.

Helen Salvin
Helen Salvin is Account Director at The PHA Group.